The ITI is more about a life, than a place. It is not primarily a place, but a community of people engaged in a certain activity. It is a life of a learner of a particular kind: a learner who is in pursuit of the common good of truth, particularly theological truth: God who is the First Truth. ITI is an institute dedicated to theological study—your theological study. Thus, you are the ITI, in the most decisive sense of the term. You must take responsibility for this life—if you do, ITI’s life will be vibrant and rich; if you do not, our life will be poor. Your activity is the essential part.
What we want to place at the center of our work are the great theological questions themselves, the great themes and realities themselves, and not primarily the question, “What has so and so said about this or that question?” This point cannot be emphasized enough.
ITI’s first goal is to take our pedagogic steps in such a way that we offer room and nourishment for the growth of persons for whom theology springs from the innermost thirst of their heart. Which ‘pedagogic steps’ do we take? What are the activities that define ITI’s life?
ITI’s curriculum has its point of departure in the primary sources (ad fontes) written by the great masters of the theological tradition, from Scripture and the Fathers of the Church to the present age. Texts have been carefully selected from the greatest authors and saints of both the East and West, seeking in this way to “breathe with both lungs of the Church.” The Greek Fathers and St. Thomas Aquinas are particularly important points of reference.
There is an old proverb: “You can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink.” We can set the living water of the writings of the great masters within your reach, but you are the one who will have to drink from these sources. Unless you drink, nothing will happen. A cow could eat grass all day, but if it did not ruminate, if it did not re-chew what it has taken in, it would starve. It is similar with reading the great masters. You have to re-read them; you have to, as it were, ruminate in a spirit of contemplation. If you read with genuine thirst and genuine hunger, you will read in this way.
Seek a ‘conversion’: consider reading as the most precious activity, the most important pedagogical event. Here you are taught by the philosophical and theological Masters themselves. You receive a teaching better than any we would be able to provide for you. ITI has the conviction that there is a better way of teaching and studying theology, namely, a discipleship to the great masters acquired by the careful reading under the guidance of the professor. (In their professors, students have a living model of what such discipleship consists in. The often difficult texts are opened up by ITI faculty so that students by and by become better readers of them.)
However, to be taught by texts we first need to learn how to read them successfully. Learned readers ask questions of each text they read. We too, as readers learning how to read, must ask “why is the author writing this text?,” “What is the content of his text?,” and “How is he communicating this content?” One reads a text with accuracy and depth when she analyzes how the parts of a text fit together to form one whole. A good reader is attentive to the structure of the text and the author’s ordering of his ideas and arguments.
It is essential that you bring your own questions to class. There is nothing quite as pointless as the answer to a question one has not asked. If I say, “four,” you will wonder what I mean. If I say, “What is two and two?” and then I say, “four,” it makes sense to you. This is why it is so important for you to bring your questions with you to class and to raise them in class.
Discussing in class not only includes raising questions, but also examining what is being said by others, attempting to argue from principles to conclusions, and making judgments about conclusions in the light of first principles.
A common good is a good in which many persons can share at the same time without in any way decreasing or dividing it.
We ought to dress for a public/political event that has a certain seriousness and festivity about it.
The question of the common good is linked to our activity of discussion. Our class discussion is a public and political event that concerns a great common good—the common good of truth, of God’s truth as pursued by theology. Because class discussion is linked with a common good there is, on the one hand a great seriousness about this event—that is why we call each other by our last names rather than by our first names (e.g., Miss Harrison, Mr. Mijhad). On the other hand, there is a great joy and festivity to our discussion because it helps us participate in the truth to a greater degree and this results in joy. Clothing is telling here—we ought to dress for a public/political event that has a certain seriousness and festivity about it.
A common good has a unique power to unify. It is able to lift us out of the narrow circle of our private life in which we tend to live and widens our heart for the great whole in which we live, ultimately the Body of Christ.
When you feel down in your studies, then stop and remember the common good of truth that you are pursuing.
When you feel down in your studies, when their immediate profit for you is not clear to you, then stop and remember the common good of truth that you are pursuing—let the greatness of this good sink into your heart and move you to sacrificial love. You can also remind others when you see that others are in difficulty. For awakening love, there is nothing more effective than looking at the good, than touching the good with one’s heart, in particular the common good. This is our hope at the ITI.
The purpose of ITI’s pedagogy, which includes primarily active reading and discussion, is to further the growth of a person for whom theology springs from the desire for happiness, the desire for the universal or infinite good (sicut cervus), a person in whom the sources of the great masters of theology, and the truths of faith revealed by the Word incarnate which have been handed down (traditio) to us through his body, the Church, are present in a living manner as sources (ad fontes).
ITI is more about a life, than a place. It is a life of a learner of a particular kind: a learner who is in pursuit of the common good of truth, particularly theological truth - God who is the First Truth. Therefore, at the ITI theology and sanctity, study and charity, virtue and gift all rise together to embrace our covenant God. As our Seventh Principle states, “Theology stands under the rule of the new commandment and exists for the sake of union with the One whose love for us we come more deeply to understand.”
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